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Donald A. Ross, Walter L. Olsen, Amy M. Ross, Brian T. Andrews and Lawrence H. Pitts

✓ Recently, Ropper reported that horizontal brain shift caused by acute unilateral mass lesions correlated closely with consciousness, and suggested that recovery of consciousness was unlikely to occur after surgical evacuation if the shift was insufficient to explain the observed diminution of consciousness. The authors have sought to confirm the correlation of pineal shift with level of consciousness and to assess the prognostic value of brain shift measurements in a prospective study. Forty-six patients (19 with subdural hematoma, 14 with intracerebral hematoma, and 13 with epidural hematoma) were accrued to the study group consecutively. A correlation was found between a decrease in the level of consciousness and a significant increase in the mean lateral brain displacement at the pineal gland (from 3.8 to 7.0 mm) and septum (5.4 to 12.2 mm). When outcome was examined in patients who were stuporous or comatose on admission, a significant increase in septal shift was found among patients with a poor outcome, but there was no significant relationship between outcome and degree of pineal or aqueductal shift. A poor outcome was more likely with effacement of both perimesencephalic cisterns or the ipsilateral cistern, but not the contralateral cistern, although this difference did not reach statistical significance. These results do not substantiate the value of brain shift as an independent prognostic factor after evacuation of an acute unilateral mass lesion. The decision to operate and the determination of prognosis should be based rather on established criteria such as the clinical examination, age of the patient, and the mechanism of injury.

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Brian W. Hanak, Emily F. Ross, Carolyn A. Harris, Samuel R. Browd and William Shain


Shunt obstruction by cells and/or tissue is the most common cause of shunt failure. Ventricular catheter obstruction alone accounts for more than 50% of shunt failures in pediatric patients. The authors sought to systematically collect explanted ventricular catheters from the Seattle Children's Hospital with a focus on elucidating the cellular mechanisms underlying obstruction.


In the operating room, explanted hardware was placed in 4% paraformaldehyde. Weekly, samples were transferred to buffer solution and stored at 4°C. After consent was obtained for their use, catheters were labeled using cell-specific markers for astrocytes (glial fibrillary acidic protein), microglia (ionized calcium-binding adapter molecule 1), and choroid plexus (transthyretin) in conjunction with a nuclear stain (Hoechst). Catheters were mounted in custom polycarbonate imaging chambers. Three-dimensional, multispectral, spinning-disk confocal microscopy was used to image catheter cerebrospinal fluid–intake holes (10× objective, 499.2-μm-thick z-stack, 2.4-μm step size, Olympus IX81 inverted microscope with motorized stage and charge-coupled device camera). Values are reported as the mean ± standard error of the mean and were compared using a 2-tailed Mann-Whitney U-test. Significance was defined at p < 0.05.


Thirty-six ventricular catheters have been imaged to date, resulting in the following observations: 1) Astrocytes and microglia are the dominant cell types bound directly to catheter surfaces; 2) cellular binding to catheters is ubiquitous even if no grossly visible tissue is apparent; and 3) immunohistochemical techniques are of limited utility when a catheter has been exposed to Bugbee wire electrocautery. Statistical analysis of 24 catheters was performed, after excluding 7 catheters exposed to Bugbee wire cautery, 3 that were poorly fixed, and 2 that demonstrated pronounced autofluorescence. This analysis revealed that catheters with a microglia-dominant cellular response tended to be implanted for shorter durations (24.7 ± 6.7 days) than those with an astrocyte-dominant response (1183 ± 642 days; p = 0.027).


Ventricular catheter occlusion remains a significant source of shunt morbidity in the pediatric population, and given their ability to intimately associate with catheter surfaces, astrocytes and microglia appear to be critical to this pathophysiology. Microglia tend to be the dominant cell type on catheters implanted for less than 2 months, while astrocytes tend to be the most prevalent cell type on catheters implanted for longer time courses and are noted to serve as an interface for the secondary attachment of ependymal cells and choroid plexus.